A man stands alone in a room, watched by unsmiling faces, before literally falling into the rest of the group. Young women dance in time, their shoes belting out a rhythm on a wooden floor. A strange ritual of falling and rising is played out on a fog-shrouded hill. In this beautifully-lensed dance film, director Warren Green and choreographer Megan Adams take a new approach to showcasing the talents of acting students from drama school Toi Whakaari. The shifting, syncopated soundtrack is by Hamish Walker and David Holmes of Kog Transmissions.
This 1952 film ventures off the Bay of Plenty coast to New Zealand’s most active volcano: White Island. The National Film Unit production joins a team of DSIR scientists, supposedly the first humans in more than a decade to to view this “fantastic laboratory of nature”. They camp in the ruins of a sulphur mill, where the acidic fumes have disintegrated factory engines. Steam in fumeroles destroys thermometers — “mapping the land brings the party to many a scene like this: a scene from The Inferno”. Elsewhere, gannets nest, defying the inhospitable environment.
For this lauded Seven Days assignment Ian Johnstone was the first NZ television reporter to travel to apartheid-era South Africa. In this episode (one of three) he finds a white minority clinging to power in the face of mounting violence and a sense of looming change. The limbo-like status of the mixed-race Coloureds stresses how untenable the regime’s policies have become; and demand for equality from black students is palpable. Interviewees include a defiant Prime Minister Vorster, author Alan Paton (Cry, the Beloved Country), journalist Donald Woods and activist Helen Suzman.
This 1992 TV One documentary follows the All Blacks on their first post-apartheid visit to South Africa. The footy tour tomfoolery of producer Ric Salizzo’s earlier All Blacks docos is subbed off for reflections on politics and sport from players — including ex-All Black Ken Gray, who refused to tour the republic in 1970 and joined protesters in 1981. Not all goes to script for a “new South Africa”: the Afrikaans anthem is played before the Ellis Park test, and the All Blacks win. Future South Africa cricket star Herschelle Gibbs is a young coloured player mentored by the ABs.
When Mount Tarawera erupted on 10 June 1886, it took over 100 lives. It was also thought to have destroyed the Pink and White Terraces on Lake Rotomahana, then hailed as the eighth wonder of the natural world. This documentary follows a team of New Zealand and American scientists — led by Kiwi geologist Cornel de Ronde — as they scour the lake floor, to see if any traces of the legendary structures remain. Also examined are the area's history, and the lead-up to the eruption. In 2018 de Ronde robustly criticised a theory that the remains of the terraces were now partly on land.
Claire Duncan’s “love-letter to music on the margins” punctures the romantic view of the touring musician (with withering narration playing over images of rural backwaters) while simultaneously affirming the virtues of self-expression, and the special transience of live performance. Featured are interviews and arresting performances from some of NZ’s most singular new artists: Seth Frightening, i.e. crazy (the director’s musical alias) and Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing. This was one of three films produced by Lumière, advocating for local artists working outside the mainstream.
Director Florian Habicht returns to his Northland home turf to chronicle the annual Snapper Classic Fishing Contest, in this full-length documentary. First prize is $50,000, but the participants chase the joy of the cast as much as the purse. The solitary figures on the epic sweep of Ninety Mile Beach provide poetic images, as Habicht teases out homespun philosophy while fishing for answers on love, the afterlife and whether fish have feelings. The soundtrack features 50s style instrumentals from Habicht regular Marc Chesterman, plus singalongs on the sand and at the local pub.
Norvin has razor teeth and looks as much like a shark as any young boy can. So he makes a dorsal fin out of plastic and sets off to scare everyone out of the water. Now Norvin has the cove to himself. Or does he? The success of animator Euan Frizzell's wry adaptation of the Margaret Mahy picture book saw four more Mahy tales follow (collected on DVD as The Magical World of Margaret Mahy). Among a trio of awards, The Great White Man-Eating Shark won best children's short at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Ray Henwood provides the droll narration.
This feature film follows Māori medicine woman Paraiti (played by singer Whirimako Black) on a rare visit to Auckland from her Urewera home. She meets a Māori servant (Rachel House) and is drawn into helping a wealthy Pākehā woman (Outrageous Fortune’s Antonia Prebble) with a scandalous, life-threatening secret. The tale of culture clash and deception in settler Aotearoa was directed by Mexican Dana Rotberg (Otlia Rauda), who adapted the story from Witi Ihimaera novella Medicine Woman. Producer John Barnett was also involved in the adaptation of Ihimaera’s Whale Rider.
This isn't an apartheid manual or minimalist design code, but a 1952 road safety film from the National Film Unit. The film follows 'Mrs White' and 'Mrs Black' leaving their respective homes (on foot) for a bridge evening. Mrs White wears visible clothing and faces the traffic (would a modern colour remake see a Mrs Fluoro?). Mrs Black dresses eponymously and walks with her back to the traffic. Predictable results ensue. Modern viewers who associate such character names with Reservoir Dogs will not be disappointed by the suspenseful denouement.